Home from Happy Birthday In the Hospital

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden  

Apparently, one needs a hefty blood supply to function well and survive. Go figure.

This afternoon I arrived home after a three-day stint in the hospital. An observant doctor took one look at me at a walk-in clinic on Wednesday and blurted, “Oh my G..!” From that point, my plans for the week changed.

Saturday was my birthday (Ah, thank you, thank you) . It was supposed to be celebrated at my house with a little party of friends, laughter, and games. Instead, it was four people (one fashionably attired in her hospital gown best), some KFC, a few rounds of Boggle, and two balloons.

Two of my guests were the most important and influential people in my world- my sons, Jon and Tim. Tim, (who I live with) saw me through weeks of deteriorating health, giving me rides and offering other help generously. Both were sympathetic, and I was not in any medical facility by myself.  From the clinic to ER to the hospital, I was surrounded by their love and affection.

The third guest was a lovely friend from church who entertained us with her game hosting skills extraordinaire. Besides them, were 10 or more Happy Birthday  and Get Well texts, and a few happy nurses willing to wish me the best (and care for my every need). Now, that’s a birthday!

Since September, I have struggled with the loss of two people. In December, heavy sadness mixed with fear and self-doubt brought me to the decision to end the CompassionateLove Radio Show. By March, my therapist and I were talking about a possible need for a higher level of mental health care.

I was okay, not in danger, and yet was not overcoming complicated grief and confusion. Eventually I took a turn for the (much) better, and so expected to finish April with a positive bang. However, all the stress took its toll on my stomach. By last Thursday, I had lost over half my blood supply to a GI bleed, and needed multiple transfusions.

Mental health is by all means connected to physical health in various facets. So is spiritual health. Keeping the triune well is a worthwhile goal and promises many happy birthdays to come.

Please take it from foolish ol’ me, nothing is so bad we cannot exercise a little self-care. When it is the most difficult to care is the time to dig in, eat healthy, talk out your problems, pursue positive solutions to your pain, and keep walking. I know I am preaching what I did not practice. I also know that self-care is sometimes the most challenging part of life.

Well, I’m home from the hospital with yet another chance to get it right.  Happy birthday to all of you over the next twelve months. God bless, and take care!

Today’s Helpful Word

3 John 2 

“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.”

 

*********

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

*pic by PAPARABBIT on rgbstock.com

 

 

 

An Interview to Save a Life

CompassionateLove Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   Always The Fight Ministries   (c)2017 Nancy Virden  

Play the chant backward and you might hear Jeanette’s tale: baby in the baby carriage, marriage, then unending love from a source she never expected.

Her boyfriend-turned-husband cheated, convinced her to submit to sexual abuse in the name of religion, and nearly took her life. This marriage from hell almost destroyed her. Her confusion was compounded by wrong and ineffective advice from people in and outside of her church. She was not believed.  She was blamed, and expected to change her ways to make this dangerous union work.

Hear Jeanette’s story and more on the CompassionateLove Radio page of this website. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 32:22

Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.”

*********

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

Glad To Be Weak [2]

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2014 Nancy Virden  Edited and reposted (c)2017. Excerpt is from Called To Live.

Tough. One of the reasons I ignore red flags is because I want to either fix or handle the problem. Then I put off getting help in all kinds of situations because it seems a sign of weakness to ask. Realizing a few years back that I am not tough was difficult news to take. Nevertheless, I can still pretend I am.

People praise strength as a virtue. An individual who has a strong back, can take burdens without buckling, knows how to avoid being hurt by words, and never complains while in physical pain, is admired. Toughness in my interpretation is the ability to stand against  life’s pressures. It is holding one’s head high, beating the odds, being a conqueror.

That is not me.

Perhaps toughness is just what the so-called strong put forward. What if pretending to be strong is a normal way of life for everyone? In support groups the truth us not obscured. Obviously, the not-so-tough are not alone.

I believe if my strength is not in all areas then I am altogether weak. The question has been asked, can Nancy be somewhat strong, or strong in one area and weak in another? Could it be okay not only to be weak, but also to allow it to be seen? Is that what is called, “being human?”

The above excerpt from my first book, Called to Live: A Chronicle of Recovery After Attempted Suicide, reminds me  how far I have come in both mindset and behavior in six years. It was frightening talking in therapy, in support groups, and to friends about true feelings. The idea of publishing my story was terrifying. I said I would live in a bunker after it came out, and sometimes still wish to do so. 

Compassion for people who hurt like I did causes me to talk about major depression, mental illness, suicide, and emotions freely. Hiding remains a selfish preference. However, in any size group, I will answer questions even if the one bringing it up is trying to put me down. That is because I never know who is in the room. People questioning the value of living are everywhere. Even pompous blowhards might be in grave pain. 

I want to spread hope by being real, honest, and open to listening. I am not a therapist, however hold a PhD in my story. Millions of agonized voices are trying to be heard above the din of ignorance.  To be one of them is an honor, and to encourage some to walk out of darkness with me is a privilege.   

I am still not-so-tough, yet pretending is over. Admitting to weakness saves lives. Yes, it is worth it. 

Today’s Helpful Word

2 Corinthians 1:3,4

“God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

*********

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

Prisoner of Your Thoughts? Here’s How to Capture Them and Be Free

Anyone with mental illness can probably relate to the challenge of racing thoughts, persistent painful memories, and torturous self-loathing. I’m guessing this is true based on hearing stories from so many who struggle. *

Whether driving, trying to sleep, sitting in school, or on the job, there are times thoughts seem to hold us captive. They could be anything from “Does he like me?” to “I do not deserve to live.” 

One woman said, “A thought is just a thought.” She is a survivor of monstrous physical abuse at the hands of her mother. Her inner prison at the time of her statement included every negative one could believe about oneself. Slowly, she was learning to challenge false beliefs and impulsive self-destruction. It is a lifetime process for her; when we met she was in her mid-fifties.

Some of you do not have to try to imagine her plight because you know it intimately. You have played your music so loudly trying to drown out repetitive thoughts that people around you complain. You have tried to sleep your days away to escape. Unfortunately, self-medication may have made matters worse, and you feel less worthy than ever before. 

I know because I’ve been there. Still, they threaten on bad days. However, there is a way out, and thoughts can be made permanently captive while we go free.  

Renew your mind. Most of us cannot do this on our own. If we could, it would be done already. Some of us don’t understand this option at all.  Here’s how:

  1. Be willing to give up familiar beliefs about yourself, other people, experiences, and the world.  Simply ask, “What do I want?” Do you want change even if it makes you afraid?
  2. Find someone who gets it who is able to listen and guide without judgment. Personally, I suggest a professional and licensed therapist. Not even those relationships are always a good fit, so do not be afraid to search until find someone knowledgable who works well with your personality. Expect to be challenged. That is why you are there!
  3. Question messages and messengers. Who sent you the message you are worthless or incapable? What evidence exists to the contrary? For example, I had to ask why I believed a woman has less value than a man. Did I know women I could admire? Yes. Did I know men deserving of little respect? Yes. This real evidence proves the message wrong.  The messenger of the lie had a flawed history of chauvinism and abuse of women. Once I could dismiss him as a reliable source, everything started to change.
  4. Forgive yourself for all the self-harm, harm to others, and perceived missteps you have done. Please allow yourself to be a deeply flawed, perfectly imperfect human being who was never meant to be mistake-proof. None of us are more than human or less than animals. Acknowledge wrongdoing by telling God and another human the exact nature of your wrongs. Some of the guilt you bear was never yours to own. Let it all go. 
  5. In the immediate moment of persistent uncomfortable thoughts, focus on something else. For me, this can be anything from serving others to word searches. Distractions help so much! If trying to sleep, do something that demands concentration yet makes you sleepy. Many people have success with DBT** training.
  6. Interrupting the thoughts can help. I say, “Stop!” up to many times per day. It gives me a moment to regroup and change my focus. One therapist suggested putting a bag of frozen vegetables under my arm! Yikes, it probably works! (You try it first and let me know.) 
  7. Allow time and effort to make a difference. Some of our false, negative, core beliefs are deeply buried under tangled messes of fear, anger, innocence, familiarity, trauma, pain, and more. As time and hard work chip away at these, give yourself credit for even the tiniest movements forward. Slow progress is still amazing progress!
  8. Old beliefs have to be replaced with something. Make sure those new beliefs are positive and true. Here are some very practical, doable, and successful exercises to defeat self-loathing and other powerful negative thoughts – see How to Gain and Maintain a Mindset of Hope.
  9. Turn your hope to the one source of unconditional love that never fails. Believe me, I’ve tried so hard to depend on people for this, and each time someone cares and loves me, it falls short of “unconditional”.  This dependency on humans has left me hurt, devastated, and despairing.  You too? I’ve learned to place a limited amount of trust in even the best people, and to trust God with everything. We need to allow therapists, loved ones, and friends to care for us the best they can. Ultimately, when we have God’s love to lean on, we are never alone even when others fail. 

You deserve to feel better. You can be free!   

Today’s Helpful Word

Philippians 4:6-8  

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

-Saint Paul

********
NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*I am not a doctor or therapist and cannot speak to the many nuances of serious mental illness such as major depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis, or schizophrenia. Please see a psychiatrist for diagnosis and a suitable treatment plan.  

**DBT stands for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. It is a fun and profound training about controlling your thoughts and behaviors. You can find DBT training around the country and online.

Peeps, Chocolate Bunnies, and Jesus. Yep, It’s Easter in America!

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

Two days ago, I bought each of my very grownup sons a chocolate rabbit and a box of peeps. Then I proceeded to look at those treats with coveting eyes. 

Eyeing the chocolate overcame the message of Easter in my thoughts. This is not a food addicts tale; it is an American saga going on in most homes this weekend. Easter baskets for the children, Easter egg hunts, Easter feasts, chocolate, jelly beans, and peanut butter eggs become mini-gods for a few weeks. 

Mini-gods? Many have just finished Lent, the purpose of which is to challenge sin and character flaws in oneself, to repent, and work closely with God to change. Instead, people give up chocolate or pork, only to feast on ham dinners and candy on Easter Sunday. There is no real worship of the One True God expressing itself in surrender.

We trivialize the powerful message of the cross of Christ.  When I worked with children in the church, I used to teach that spring is a sign of new life (like what Jesus gives us when we follow him); empty eggs represent resurrection (because Jesus  died, was buried, and left the tomb empty when he came out alive). Bunnies, baskets, and egg hunts all had their spiritual meaning. So what was wrong with that?

This is what Saint Paul said about it in 1 Corinthians 1:17 (MSG)  “God didn’t send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn’t send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center – Christ on the Cross – be trivialized into mere words.” (Bold accent is mine).

Mere words. Mere candy. Mere meaningless sacrifices. It all falls far short of the glory of God. 

So what about the cross? Almighty God, Sovereign of the Universe, created everything out of nothing. His power is beyond compare. He is absolutely holy – that is, without fault or blame.

He made each of us because he loves us, and longs for close friendship with us. We however, keep turning to other gods like pride, money, sex, and more. Out of sheer love for you and me, he sent his only birth-son Jesus to take the punishment God knew we could not bear. 

That is the meaning of the cross. Jesus, equally God and living in heaven, chose to give it all up and come here as a vulnerable baby to be among us. He was sinless (that is a very important point!), and then gave himself up to die via crucifixion.  This is what we are grateful for on what we call Good Friday.

He did not stay dead! He was buried, and three days later rose back to life! That is our celebration on Easter. If Jesus did not resurrect, then our faith is in vain. If God is dead, what hope do we have? 

He is alive, returned to heaven, and according to Jesus’ promise is preparing a place for us there. Because he ‘paid the price’ already, we have the utmost privilege of coming to God, The Almighty, and talk with him, thank him, ask for forgiveness, ask for help, and listen freely without fear.   And he eats it up! He wanted this from the start, remember? There is no need for false sacrifices during Lent or any other time of the year.

Micah 7: 18, 19 (NLT) reads, “Where is another God like you, who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of his special people? You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love. Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean! (Bold accent is mine).
All that is asked of us to begin that relationship with God and to gain eternal life with him, is to accept the gift Jesus gave. When we believe he is God’s only birth-Son, that he came from heaven, died, was buried, and resurrected, we know he has the power to forgive sins. We can repent and place our trust in God’s unfailing love.
The cross. It’s so simple yet nothing is as profound. Let’s not bury it in chocolate.

Today’s Helpful Word

1 Corinthians 15 : 3– 6 
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time…”   -Saint Paul

********
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

It’s Easter Week, and I Fell Into a Rabbit Hole…

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

It’s Easter Week, and I fell into a rabbit hole.

It’s a family trait.

My mom was a seamstress. One evening we attended a gathering at her alma mater. She had made both our dresses. As we went in to the building, we made a silly secret pact to keep score – who would receive the most compliments on mom’s work.

Her gown won, and we giggled on our return to the car. Holding her head high in mock haughtiness, she proclaimed, “I am Queen Esther!”,  and promptly fell, inelegantly, on her rear end.

The cause of this sudden loss of royal stature was a hole in the pavement.  We could barely speak or move we were laughing so hard. The proverb, “Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18) came to mind, and strength failed us again. 

So for me to fall in a rabbit hole is not all that odd. Years ago I sprained my ankle by doing that, only to step into the same hole a few weeks later, re-injuring the same ankle. Since I hadn’t learned my lesson the first time, I was doomed to repeat history.

This is typical of Easter weekend. Sure enough, as follower of Jesus, I responded to a woman’s small talk about Easter eggs and baskets as if it were the sum of the holiday. It was habit, because for years that is how we celebrated at my house. I fell into that same chocolate bunny routine as easily as face-planting beside a rabbit hole.

Here’s the problem though. Last night I watched the movie, “The Case For Christ,” the story of atheist investigative reporter Lee Stroebel’s conversion to Christianity following months of trying to disprove its premise. Try as he might, he could not refute the vast amount of evidence that Jesus actually died on a cross and resurrected.*

One of the many experts Stroebel consulted stated that if there was no resurrection of Christ, the Christian faith is a waste of time. However, if it did happen, it is the most important factor in life. Why?

Jesus claimed to be God’s Son, the only birth-son of the Heavenly Father. His death was to restore a sinful humanity to relationship with the One True God. HIs resurrection was to end the power of death. If he failed, we have no eternal hope. If his act was real, we have every hope.

If his act was real, our lives are not meaningless. We are not accidents. The wanted or unwanted messages of the world do not touch us. Jesus died for us, and that love is as unconditional as it gets.

If he died on the cross and resurrected, believers have no reason to fear death. The loss of saved loved ones who died is not permanent. Our focus is not on striving to survive at all costs, but rather to make life count.  We have reason to get out of bed each morning.

Despite strong emotions or mental illness, we have a Savior who walks us through. God is not waiting to squash us as soon as we are weak, rather he is waiting to embrace us when we run to him for help. People fail sometimes to love us well. God’s love never fails and he never breaks promises he made to us in the Bible.

The cross and resurrection are why we celebrate Easter. It is the most important holiday for believers world-wide. I don’t want to fall in a rabbit hole of pink ribbons and toys. I want to be lifted up in the arms of Jesus, our eternal hope and unfailing love.

Today’s Helpful Word

1 Corinthians 15

And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless… And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.  But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.”  -St. Paul who did not believe and converted 

********
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*Stroebel’s original theory challenged the number and reliability of original manuscripts (over 5000, some written within 30 years of the incident), and whether Jesus died and resurrected. One by one, historical facts and evidence outweighed secular presumptions. See the book, The Case for Christ for more details.

 

 

 

To Anyone Who Thinks About Suicide

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

Your feelings are real and deserve to be accepted as such. Your experience with despair is yours and not anyone else’s. You have the right to feel great pain without a bunch of people telling you your emotions are wrong.

Yes, your thoughts and feelings are actually happening. Let’s use caution, though. Not everything we feel so intensely makes all of our thoughts rational or true.  For example, you may actually be lonely. It may be difficult to find someone to care. Your thought that this situation can never change is not based in truth.

Support does not always come from where we wish it would. Significant people such as family and friends can often manage to make us feel worse even while they try to fix us or our pain. This is sad and frustrating, however the thought that we can never find the love and acceptance we need is not based in truth.

Loss hurts. Loss hurts so very much! We lose family through abandonment, divorce, rejection, and death.  Abuse and other traumas change our brain and we struggle to have a “normal” feeling or thought. Addiction chains us to guilt and self-loathing.  Although we move forward it does not seem fast or good enough.  Listen to me anyway!

Your life is not over even though your mind and heart are telling you it is. That worthlessness you feel is temporary. Hopelessness is a lie. Yes, some situations are not meant to continue and changes are necessary. Nonetheless, it is not your entire existence that must be wiped away.

At one point I felt strongly I was supposed to die. Since it did not happen, God had time to slowly teach me that it was actually my old and unhealthy ways of perceiving the world that needed to be put to death. That path out of darkness was the most profound challenge of my life, yet it was doable despite how I felt.

When Jesus died at his crucifixion and then came back to life to live in heaven with God, he made a permanent way for us to know Light and to not live in darkness anymore. Yes, we will suffer loss, depression, anger, loneliness, and fear. People will not always understand and may expect us to stop hurting. Yet once we have yielded to Jesus as our Savior from sin and eternal condemnation, we always have him to turn to with our doubts and strong emotions.

Perhaps the bravest thing you will ever do is stay alive when everything within you is pointing to suicide. You can be that brave, though. Find people who get it. We are out here, listening, and glad to help see you through. We are in hospitals, intensive outpatient programs, and support groups. We are on the internet, and sitting next to you at work. You will find us, we are here.

If you haven’t already, ask Jesus to forgive your sins, whatever they may be. Then stay tuned to this website, find professional help, and wait for what you think is impossible but is not – a more satisfying, purpose-filled life.

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 33: 20 – 22 

“We put our hope in the LORD . He is our help and our shield.  In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.  Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.”

********
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

 

 

5 Hidden Symptoms of Major Depression

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

Some symptoms of depression, such as low mood and little energy, are better known than others. While stigma against such symptoms remains vigorous and rampant, it is important to remember that depression is different for each person who has it. 

Depression is one word with two definitions. Most people, and this may be you, will never experience anything worse than the blues.  A few days of feeling sad or heavy-hearted do not measure up to a diagnosis of major depression. 

Serious mental illnesses like major depression have greater impact on a person’s ability to reason, concentrate, function, exercise self-care, and enjoy life.  (See the link below for more information). 

Here are 5 symptoms of major depression of which you may not be aware. 

  1. Shame. Major Depression does not make us stupid. We can see clearly how our friends and family are negatively affected. Low productivity disappoints us too. We know how much we “should” accomplish and cannot. Stigma tells us we are failing at normalcy. Depression tells us we are worthless. 
  2. Want to Care/Do Not Care. We may experience listlessness toward our wellbeing. Lack of basic self-care such as not eating or sleeping, non-compliance with treatment and not taking meds as prescribed, and even recklessness due to a recognized or unrecognized death wish may increase. At the same time, we want to be different from all that. Fighting against a powerful apathy hinders progress. 
  3. Acting outside one’s values. Major depression does not change who we are. Neither does it erase personal responsibility for our actions. In our pain and desperation we may behave differently than we like and feel the shame of that.  Sometimes fear of doing the wrong thing keeps us isolated. 
  4. Trouble Thinking. Cognitive impairment can be embarrassing. I remember waking up one day not knowing how to spell. It passed, however during a major depressive episode our brains are malfunctioning. Struggling to concentrate during conversations, or experiencing no recall of well-intended promises are two examples of how affected our thinking can become. 
  5. Anger. Great need can produce greater resentment when those needs are not met. We are generally aware that no one really wants to know how we feel when they ask. We know this because people walk away, tell us not to feel depressed, or try to fix our situation. Stigma is a powerful force preventing opportunity to vent or to receive non-judgmental love.  This intensifies feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, shame, and sometimes anger.

Today’s Helpful Word

Proverbs 14:10

“Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can fully share its joy.” 

********
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

For a thorough description of types of depression, symptoms, treatment options, and more – visit the Depression page on the website of the National Institute for Mental Health 

Do You Stigmatize Mental Illness? A Quiz

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

 

Is it possible you stigmatize mental illness and those who have it? (Stigma: a mark of strong disapproval, or regarded as worthy of disgrace*). 

Take note of your responses as you read the following true story. Then take the quiz at the end to find out!

TRUE STORY

Ken** sees snakes that are not there. In his reality they bite him.

Ken also sees a little man sitting on his left shoulder. The little man hits Ken and tells him to pull off his toenails.

Ken’s legs all but stopped working one day, and someone else had to pull them out of the car to help him stand. Although he remained dizzy, he believed he could not lay down. Dinner was followed by a nap for which he did lay on his bed.

Waking a short time later, he said he was hungry. Someone informed him he had eaten a full dinner, but he did not believe it. He remembered nothing of earlier events and insisted on finishing a second full meal.

Ken has numerous and extreme physical problems. Sometimes he struggles to move about his home.  Due to heart and blood pressure issues, chronic pain from a long ago accident, and mental illness, Ken takes a variety of medications every day.

Although he was always a hard worker and once owned a successful business, all his money was lost over the course of recovery from the debilitating accident. Currently,his income is Social Security and nothing else.

Limited health insurance allows him to see a psychiatrist with no therapeutic follow-up care for his mental illness. (Psychiatrists only dispense medicine, they do not do therapy except in rare situations). Ken sees his psychiatrist for a few minutes every few months and tells him about recent episodes. Medicines are prescribed accordingly.

Though Ken does not remember some incidents related to his illness, he is expected to articulate his symptoms to this psychiatrist. His attention span is abnormally short. He also cannot read. Clearly, he needs a knowledgable advocate to protect his health interests, however none are assigned.

Ken attends a church of the Christian faith. He is kind and generous. You will not find gossip or complaining about other people. He is laid-back, accepting of others, and patient.

Ken is never violent. He is completely trusted by those around him. A classic gentleman, he treats everyone with respect. People enjoy his sense of humor as he jokes around and laughs easily.

NOW FOR YOUR QUIZ

A. What were your thoughts when you read the first four paragraphs of Ken’s story?

  1. Did “He’s crazy!” cross your mind?     Y  N
  2. Did you feel fear, anger, suspicion, or disgust?    Y  N
  3. Was your first response to recoil or say, “Someone needs to lock this dude up!”   Y  N
  4. Some readers may have thought Ken needs to be delivered from demonic forces.   Was this you?   Y  N

If you experienced any of these reactions,  you are not alone. Schizophrenia is so poorly understood almost everyone fears it.

FACT: Medical research and brain science strongly suggest that brain injury in early infancy and in utero, can lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia years 20 years later. Rather than coming on in late adolescence, schizophrenia symptoms are a response to maturation of the brain***. Ken’s symptoms appeared in early adulthood which is typical timing for the disorder.

B. When you learned of Ken’s physical health, did your opinion shift?

  1. To compassion or more compassion?   Y   N
  2. To withdrawal or more withdrawal? (I wouldn’t want to know this guy)   Y  N
  3. To apathy or more apathy?   Y  N

FACT:  Physical illness and disabilities are generally accepted as unfortunate situations. However, people with psychiatric illness or disabilities garner little sympathy because of a public false perception that they cause and control such disabilities. 

C. As you learned of Ken’s mental health treatment (or lack thereof), what did you think about it?

  1. He needs to stop relying on quacks  Y  N
  2. That’s too bad because Ken is helpless   Y   N
  3. Lock him up- he shouldn’t be outpatient anyway   Y   N

FACT: Evidence points to a lack of positive results when people with mental illness are forced to undergo treatment. One study**** revealed a strong public preference for the institutionalization of people with serious psychiatric disorders. Perhaps this explains a lackluster outcry for mental health parity, which would provide the same insurance coverage for psychiatric as physical illnesses.  For more on mandated treatment see article. ***** 

D.  As more of his innate character traits were described, what effect did they have on your original judgment?

  1. Less Fear   Y   N
  2. Anger subsided   Y   N
  3. Relief at least this one is less scary   Y  N

Ken’s brother forced young Ken to endure being trapped and smothered in snakes. Their mother’s untreated mental illness created a chaotic home life. The family situation was so bad Ken moved out at 13. He completed his childhood as a member of an itinerate evangelist’s work team, and never finished what little schooling he’d had.

Trauma (of which he has suffered plenty) can profoundly change how one sees the world. Trauma also affects the brain.  As in anything, people struggle differently with trauma. Some people seem fine while others do not cope well. Without the opportunity to work with a mental health professional who understands trauma-recovery, Ken is left to his own devices to manage deep issues he does not know how to face.

Despite all this, Ken simply remains a nice guy.

SCORING:

Any Yes:  Reconsider your gut reaction to mental illness and to people who have it 

2- 7  Yes answers:  You have some preconceived ideas worth challenging.  You will benefit from reading a few articles and stories on sites such as alwaysthefight.com; NAMI.org; and helpguide.org 

8-13  Yes answers: You believe false information, and lots of it.  Intentionally or not, your reactions and no doubt your words promote stigma which ultimately hinders people from finding the help they need.  Read Mental Health Myths and Facts  or for a deeper look at the effects of stigma, read this article

Untreated or under treated mental illnesses will, by their very nature, appear different from the norm. Untreated or under treated mental illness tends to cause more suffering for the person who has it, and for their supports who also need to learn how to cope.

Today’s Helpful Word

Proverbs 11:12

“It is foolish to belittle one’s neighbor; a sensible person keeps quiet.”

********
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stigmatize and https://www.google.com/#q=stigmatized&

**name has been changed

***National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) Peer-to-Peer Recovery Education Program

****Debating Forced Treatment and Mental Illness. Retrieved on April 1, 2017 from http://www.peteearley.com/2013/02/06/debating-forced-treatment/

*****PATRICK W CORRIGAN and AMY C WATSON, World Psychiatric Association. Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness.  2002 Feb; 1(1): 16–20. Retrieved on April 1, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1489832/

1University of Chicago Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Chicago Consortium for Stigma Research, 7230 Arbor Drive, Tinley Park, IL 60477, USA

As an Entrepreneur, Use Expressed Boundaries to Preserve Business Relationships

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

Let’s be upfront with each other. If your entrepreneurial business goal is to make money at all costs with little regard for the people you work with or for, this article is not for you.

If you are trying to build or maintain a sustainable business that nurtures relationships within and without the company, you will find the following information encouraging.

Craig* works closely with clients in one-on-one meetings. As a psychologist who owns a thriving business with a growing number of offices and employees, he also interacts with entities and those who represent them.

Craig is kind and savvy. Early in his career he learned the value of professional boundaries, particularly as a therapist. It’s personal boundaries he sometimes struggles to articulate.

What’s the difference?

First, let us understand what boundaries are and are not. Boundaries of any kind are not about preventing others from making decisions that can potentially hurt  you or your business. You have no control over external events or people. Healthy boundaries place you in the powerful position of deciding what kind of person you want to be, what you will allow in, and what you will refuse.

Craig’s professional boundaries help prevent a most costly confusion between client and therapist. He limits his availability, clients are responsible for building other support systems, and generally these rules are explained well. In building a business however, the stakes are different. Money is on the line. He takes on heavy responsibilities as all entrepreneurs do.

Because of this business focus, he “forgot” a twice-given promise he made to Justin, a less obviously successful entrepreneur, who was counting on him.

Craig never wants to cause harm. Yet by speaking in generalities, he allowed personal boundaries to go unexplained. He found himself in a bothersome relational situation with Justin he preferred not to confront. The rush of business pressures gave him the excuse he needed in the moment to avoid Justin and disregard his word.

The broken promise led to a series of events of which Craig was unaware. His fellow entrepreneur’s feeble success was damaged because Justin too had made promises expecting Craig’s to be fulfilled.  Ultimately, Justin’s reputation and confidence took a hit, and part of his business closed. 

This is not an indictment against Craig or anyone’s business decisions that seem appropriate to them. Choosing to remain uninvolved is absolutely fine unless we start making impulsive promises we are not committed to keeping.

Go ahead and draw personal boundaries. These are vitally important for your emotional, physical, mental, and even spiritual protection! I encourage you to spell them out, or at least do not blame another person for misunderstanding if you do not.

Well articulated personal boundaries preserve the health of current and potential business relationships by preventing situations that make you feel trapped and ready to run.

Today’s Helpful Word

1 Corinthians 10:23

“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive.

 

********

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*name has been changed